Etisalat Eyes $825M Libyan Investment, Expansion
By Dania Saadi-Of ZAWYA DOW JONES
DUBAI (Zawya Dow Jones)--Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (ETISALAT.AD) or Etisalat, plans to spend $825 million on investments in Libya where it's bidding for a license as part of a plan to double subscribers by 2012, a company official said on Sunday.
Etisalat, the second-largest Arab telecom operator by market value, expects to hear from Libyan authorities on its license bid before the end of the year, Jamal Al Jarwan, the group's chief international investments officer said in an interview with Zawya Dow Jones Sunday.
"All together infrastructure and operation for the next three to four years, it will bring in about 1 billion Libyan dinars ($825 million) in investments with our partners," Jamal Al Jarwan said.
Gulf telecom companies such as Etisalat and Qatar Telecom are on the prowl for acquisitions and licenses as their home markets mature due to competition from new operators and high penetration rates that exceed in some countries 100 percent.
The United Arab Emirates-based company, which operates in countries including India and Egypt, currently has a subscriber base of about 85 million users.
Etisalat is planning a bond program that will help finance its expansion plans that are focused on Asia, the Middle East and Africa where big population and low penetration is attracting telecom operators.
The company said Sunday its third-quarter net profit rose 5% to 2.25 billion dirhams ($613 million) from a year-earlier period, meeting analyst expectations, as it weathered the global financial crisis.
"In 2010, we expect to have 100 million subscribers and we're going to 200 million and beyond by 2012," Al Jarwan said.
Etisalat said Saturday it acquired Tigo Sri Lanka for $207 million from Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular S.A. (MICC) as it continues its expansion into new markets. The company may spend between $100 million and $200 million in investments on the Sri Lankan operations as it expands the existing network, Al Jarwan said.
The Abu Dhabi-based company is still talking with Iraq's Korek Telecom, which operates in the country's Kurdistan region, to acquire a 51% stake, he said and is eyeing Ethiopia and Angola in Africa due to their big populations, low penetration rates and weak competition.
In Asia, the company is looking at Vietnam and Philippines among other countries, he added. "It tallies with our vision of going to mass market," Al-Jarwan said.
Etisalat, which lost a bid to buy a stake in Morocco's Meditel telecoms firm, is still interested in the North African country, which is "complex", Al Jarwan said.
The company is talking to potential partners in Iran to present a new model to operate in the country, where the government this year stripped a consortium including Etisalat from a license they had won.
"We have spoken with a few potential partners in Iran. We think we have the right model that can work," Al Jarwan said.
Etisalat's shares closed down 0.4% at AED12.55 on the Abu Dhabi bourse Sunday.
-By Dania Saadi, Dow Jones Newswires, +9714-374-8045 firstname.lastname@example.org